The 2021 NASCAR season is entering its third week, but stock car racing continues to generate interest from other prominent figures outside the sport. The latest example is Buffalo Bills running back Antonio Williams, who partnered with Xfinity Series driver Joe Graf Jr. Williams invested in the SS Green Light Racing team prior to the season and helped Graf land another sponsor.
Williams explained his move with a video posted on Twitter Thursday night. The clip started with Wiliams and Graf sitting next to each other in an RV at Daytona International Speedway. The running back then explained how faced adversity in the form of losing his job with the Bills on Aug. 5, one day after his grandfather passed away. However, he called the adversity a blessing before revealing that his grandfather's love of NASCAR pushed him to pursue investing in the sport.
"His love for NASCAR, me growing up with him watching it continued to flash over and over in my head," Williams said in the video. "With the platform I have from the NFL, I knew I had a shot of getting something done I probably couldn’t have done before. I wanted to continue his push and love for NASCAR by finding a way to join the sport, and that led to this connection with Joe. That’s what started all this — the continuation of my grandfather’s legacy, the start of a great friendship and partnership and the growth of hunger to get back in Buffalo and get on the field."
Williams ultimately rejoined the Bills during a successful 2020 season. He rushed 12 times for 63 yards and scored two touchdowns in his lone game, a 56-26 win over the Miami Dolphins in the season finale. He also caught one pass for 20 yards. He reverted to the practice squad after the season and signed a reserve/futures contract with the team.
Since announcing the partnership with Graf and the SS Green Light Racing team, Williams has also helped them land a new sponsor. He explained in a statement that he had been involved in bringing Z Grills to the table, resulting in sponsorship for several races. March 13's race in Phoenix will mark the first race with Z Grills on the car.
Williams is the latest in a series of "non-NASCAR" figures getting involved in the sport. Michael Jordan founded a new team, 23XI Racing, with Denny Hamlin while Pitbull became the co-owner of Trackhouse Racing. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara sponsored Xfinity Series driver Ryan Vargas for the Super Start Batteries 188.